1st FA Cup Final
The competition mooted by Charles Alcock in July 1871 had its final the following year on Friday March 16 1872, the kick-off at six in the evening.
Played at the Kennington Oval, better known now as a venue for cricket tests, the match was contested between Wanderers, a team made up of ex-public schoolboys and varsity men, and The Royal Engineers. Wanderers had beaten Crystal Palace 3 – 0 in a replayed semi-final also contested at the Oval; Wanderers, having drawn in their semi-final at the Oval against Queen’s Park of Glasgow were given a walk-over rather than facing a replay – the Scots had to return to Glasgow before the replay could be held.
The only goal of the final was scored by a Wanderer’s player listed for the game as A H Chequer, whose real name was Morton Betts, previously a Harrow player of some note. “Chequer” scored from a narrow angle after Wanderer’s forward Robert Vidal had created an opening by dribbling past opposing defenders.
For much of the game the losing Royal Engineers team played with what amounted to ten men, their midfielder Lieutenant Edmund Cresswell having broken a collar-bone after just ten minutes’ play. He toughed it out to the end on the wing, but took little part in play.
The upper-class nature of the game at that stage of its development is highlighted by the makeup of the Royal Engineers team, which consisted of two captains and nine lieutenants.
The winning side received the trophy, which had cost £20 from the company of Martin, Hall & Co of London, at a dinner held at the Pall Mall restaurant in London on April 11th. This miniscule cup was dubbed by some wags “The Little Tin Idol”. It was stolen while on display in Birmingham in 1895, and was never found.
As winners Wanderers were able to compete in the final the following year without playing any other matches – the rest played for the right to challenge them – the competition was then, as it still is, correctly named the FA Challenge Cup.
Wanderers won the first FA Cup from a field of only 15. In 2006-7 731 teams were entered. A crowd of 2,000 watched on at the Oval final in 1871, having paid one shilling each for entry to the ground. In 2007 89,826 spectators watched at the New Wembley , having paid rather more than a shilling for their tickets, and hundreds of millions saw the game on TV.